The Diverse Regions and Cultures of Brazil

A man in a floral shirt is being blessed by three healers in white, traditional outfits

With more than 213 million people, Brazil isn’t just the sixth most populous country in the world. It’s also one of the most diverse. And nowhere are the country’s many multi-ethnic traditions, music, and beliefs more vivid than in each of its five regions.

Like most countries, the north (Norte) and south (Sul) regions are very different, culturally.

Brazilian folklore is a big part of the culture in the north, which is home to many indigenous peoples.  Several annual celebrations are dedicated to specific legends. The three-day Festival do Boi Bumba in Parintins, Amazonas, for example, celebrates the legend of a resurrected ox. During the festival, two teams compete to retell the story of the ox through dance and song.

Many Germans, Italians, and Ukrainians immigrated to the south of Brazil (Sul), and the region’s food and architecture reflect the influence of these cultures. The roofs of houses and buildings are in a gable style, rarely seen in the rest of the country. One of the biggest celebrations is the annual Oktoberfest, featuring beer, as well as traditional German foods, music, and dances. 

The largest population of African descendants lives in the Nordeste (northeast) region of Brazil where forró originated.  Forró is a style of dance and genre of music. It’s heard during the Festa Junina festival and combines the sounds of the accordion, zabumba, and the triangle. The northeast is also the birthplace of Candomblé, a religion that includes practices of traditional West African religions and Roman Catholicism and involves the veneration of spirits known as orixás.

Like the north, the Central-Oeste (central-west) region is home to many of Brazil’s indigenous peoples. It’s also where the country’s capital, Brasilia, is located.  One of the central-west’s most important cultural celebrations is the Festa do Divino, which takes place in the state of Goiás and commemorates the Holy Spirit and the twelve Apostles.

With cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the Sudeste (southeast) region of Brazil is one of the country’s most visited, especially during Carnival.  Its residents are descendants of African, European, and Asian immigrants. In fact, the largest community of Japanese people outside of Japan resides in São Paulo.